For Local Flair‘s 21st edition, I would like to welcome the kind hearted Nielouphar to share with us all the details about her Crafts business, Pretty Paper Studio and her efforts to bring together the crafting community through it. Read on to find out more about how Pretty Paper Studio was formed and how it can help give you some much needed Me Time!
Tell me a little about yourself.
Hello! My name is Nielouphar and my loved ones call me Neelu. I am 32 years old and a mother of three. I was born and brought up in the sunny (and humid) Kerala, India. I spent a couple of years in the UAE as a child but I settled in Dubai since 2001. I completed my Bachelors and Masters Degrees locally and have been working since the age of 17. I took a break from my 9-5 job when I was expecting my oldest child. I became a working mother through Pretty Paper Studio when my second child was about a year old.
What is Pretty Paper Studio and tell me about how it began?
Pretty Paper Studio was born in April, 2012 and will be five years old this April, in sha Allah. As a new crafter I found it difficult to source items I wanted locally and decided to provide a solution by opening up a shop myself. I felt an online store would make it convenient for other moms and busy crafters to find and purchase what they are looking for.
What’s been the proudest and rewarding achievement for you in regards to the Pretty Paper Studio?
There are quiet a few but if I had to choose one, it would be the fact that we are the first store in the UAE to have offered an Online Craft Workshop. We have a self paced workshop called Simply Watercolors that our customers can access and learn from the comfort of their home, any time, any where. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing others’ creativity thrive and also help fellow small businesses in whatever way I can.
What’s been the most frustrating or challenging aspect of your business, and how have you overcome it?
Finding like minded people and the right talent to work with has been quite a struggle. Being patient and trusting my instincts has helped me find the right team.
Tell me about the newest business venture that is the ‘For Me’ DIY Kits.
I feel we women do a lot for others and often forget about ourselves and our needs. As a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister and a small business owner I often feel bogged down by the responsibilities. Many of my friends feel the same way and often tell me that they would love to carve out some time for themselves and do something that they haven’t tried before. But then the question of sourcing items and learning how to use them comes in.
With the ‘For Me’ DIY Kits I am hoping to help women like me not just learn a new craft but also make it easy on them to take care of their creative self. I personally feel that there’s a creative side in all of us and all we need is little nudge to bring it out and I am hoping to do the same with our kits.
What do the ‘For Me’ DIY Kits include and what is your criteria for sourcing items for the DIY Kits?
We are planning to put together 4-6 For Me DIY Kits this year. I personally feel two months is a good time to make the most of one kit before another one is out. My criteria is to keep the DIY project as simple and doable as possible. I also try to source items from other small businesses who understand and appreciate the concept behind the kit.
Are the Kits or your website in general aimed at a certain level of craft expertise or can it be accomplished by amateurs too?
They are put together with beginners in mind. I do not have any background in art and if I can paint a watercolor wreath, I believe anyone can.
Your website is not only a portal to buy craft supplies, but also a platform for members to showcase their work via the gallery, share tips and tricks through the blog as well as share ideas and meet like-minded people through the workshops. Can you tell me more about why you offer these and how well these aspects have been received by your customers?
You have done a lot of research about our store, thank you! I love companies that provide more value for the price I pay for their products/services and I felt mine should do the same. I do not want to be a traditional store in which you walk in, purchase an item and walk out. I want my store to offer you more than just the item you purchased. I want to help my customers get the most out of their investments via the tutorials, videos and tips we share not just on our blog but also on our social media platforms. These have been very well received and a lot of my customers appreciate the effort I take for helping them learn more about their purchases.
I love that the website and the kit offers video tutorials to support individuals with the craft process. How did this come about and why is it such an integral part of Pretty Paper Studio?
Thank you, I appreciate that! I am a very visual person and I learned most of what I know in terms of crafting by watching YouTube tutorials. I feel that it’s easier to explain certain technique(s) via videos than in written/photo tutorial format. I also felt it would add more value to the kit and the price our customers pay for our products.
What’s so unique about Pretty Paper Studio as well as the For Me DIY Kits that makes it stand out from the rest of the craft websites and subscription boxes in UAE?
As mentioned above, I love companies who give me more value for my investment. On our blog, you will find tonnes of resources on making the most of your crafty purchases. We have nearly 80 videos on our YouTube channel where our Design Team members meticulously explain various techniques and ideas. All these resources are absolutely free.
Apart from these, we also run themed contests every month whereby participants can upload their projects to our gallery and stand a chance to win prize packs. We recently launched the hashtag #craftersofUAE to get to meet other local crafters online which has been embraced by the community really well. PPSUAE is all about building and nurturing each other no matter what kind and level of crafting you do.
What is your favourite item of craft stationary and what is your favourite craft/art activity that you love doing?
Oh my, I have too many! Currently, I am into Watercolors and Brush Lettering and cannot get enough of my paints and pens.
Tell me about a day in your life, as the owner of Pretty Paper Studio?
I could write a blog post about my day, ha! Here’s a short summary. It starts very early in the morning with sending the first two off to school, getting myself and youngest ready. After breakfast my husband leaves for work and youngest and me for the studio.
Pretty Paper Studio has earned a reputation of being very quick with delivery of orders which means packing and dispatching them are my priority tasks. Once the orders are packed, I can get to answering queries of customers via emails and messages, schedule social media posts among other things. After the courier has picked up our orders, I either leave for home or stay back to finish other behind the scenes work. As an online store owner, I am blessed with the flexibility of working on the go as most of it happens on my laptop or phone.
My older two are home from school in the afternoon and I try to spend as much time as possible with them. I have to admit that I have to consciously drive my attention away from social media and constant notifications on my phone to spend more quality time with them.
After dinner, once all three are in bed, I get back to my laptop and depending on how much is left, I might go to bed soon or maybe past midnight. It’s a lot of hard work and sleepless nights but alhamdulillah, I love what I do.
How do you manage to juggle both the business and your family life?
It’s not an easy task and I have to say that with our business growing, it’s getting more and more difficult to juggle both. Alhamdulilah, I have been blessed with a husband who is an equal parent at home and also helps me a lot with work. I am also teaching myself to ask for help and delegate tasks that others can do for me. Learning to say ‘no’ to things that don’t bring me any feeling of fulfilment also a big part of my life now.
What’s your advice to other mothers in the UAE planning to start a business?
My advice to any mother starting out as a business owner is to have a good support system in place. There’s no such thing called ‘supermom’ and putting unnecessary pressure to do everything ourselves will only result in wastage of precious time and energy.
Also, don’t over think things, and just do what you want to do! Follow your passion with full spirit! There will be many scenarios when you want to throw in the towel and quit, but then that one hurdle might also turn out to be your last step to success.
You can read more about my small business journey on my personal blog neelusjournal.com or simply search for the hashtag #sparkonwithneelu on Instagram.
Where would you like to see Pretty Paper Studio in 5 years time?
Currently we are operating from a small studio space. In 5 years time, in sha Allah, I would like to move to a warehouse and hopefully, open branches in other parts of the Gulf.
Pretty Paper Studio offers weekly discounts on certain items that can be found on our homepage. If you would like to dabble in some crafts, there are also a couple of workshops coming up and you can find more info about them here.
Mummy On My Mind’s Opinion
Nielouphar was kind enough to send me the ‘For Me’ DIY Kit last month, and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised with the attention to detail and efforts put into the box. Having studied Art during college, and painting being one of my hobbies, I was very excited to receive the Water Colour package, and possibly a little smug that I could do it without any tutorials. Ha! How wrong was I?! Quite a few years had passed since putting paint brush to paper, solely to create art for myself, rather than doodle with my son, so I was very happy to refresh my memory with the video and booklet tutorial that was provided with the kit.
It was also very exciting to see the care that had been taken into these packages, which were not just your standard watercolours, paper and paint brush set. It also includes a bookmark, a colour wheel, handmade notebook and even a frame to show off your masterpiece in, amongst other things. Not forgetting the rose gold paper clip that tied everything together that had me obsessed!
When I managed to find a quiet moment, I delighted in cracking open the new set of water colours, playing with the brush strokes, and reminding myself of what it was to do something creative for myself and the pride that came with it. I didn’t realise how much I had missed water colour painting, and I can honestly say that this kit has offered me so much more than just a couple of hours of escape. I already have ideas brimming of the next water colour master piece I am going to create, excited to be painting it and mastering the art that was lost to me a few years ago.
Thank you so much Nielouphar for sharing with us your journey with Pretty Paper Studio. Your passion for crafts and helping other discover their own art talents shines through your words and your business.
If you are interested in seeing what wonderful products and tutorials are available on Pretty Paper Studio, head on over to their website or stay updated through their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. For any queries, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: All photographs in this post belong to Pretty Paper Studio and have been used by the owner’s permission.